I read with interest the article in your paper last week quoting Nicholas Watson, leader of the Borders Party – a political party with membership only in this region which is trying to dispel the fact that really it is a one-policy party.
Having read its Action Plan for Hawick, I wonder if the party really knows what is happening in the town at all or has an understanding of the structure of government in Scotland.
Firstly, I will tackle the issue of community councils. Community councils in Scotland are unique. They are statutory bodies, with rights, abilities and duties granted under the Local Govt Act 1973, the Race Relations Act 2000, the Local Government Act 2003, and laws and regulations of the European Parliament. Therefore, the community council in Hawick (and indeed Burnfoot) cannot be given any more influence that it already has other than by a change to legislation – and that could only be done by a party with elected representatives at Scottish Government level. The current Scottish Government would not support this as they support centralisation of power to a Scottish level.
I was shocked to see that the Borders Party is calling for closer links between the town’s business and education sectors. Having recently started attending Hawick High School parent council and having daughters in third and fourth year at the school, I was already aware that there were links, but at the parent council I realised they were far-reaching links and had a long history. The pastoral care given by Hawick High School is, in this parent’s humble opinion, beyond reproach. Links with business and education should be left to the schools, colleges and the business community.
The largest issue in the Borders of youth unemployment is not mentioned, nor is any effort to attract other companies to the town.
There are empty shops in High Street, which sends the wrong message about the town. We need targeted economic development. The building of more industrial units should be done hand in hand with attracting companies to the town. Incentives should be used to encourage new types of businesses to the town.
The Borders Party seems to think that the cashmere industry needs to be promoted. Promoted where?
I am no expert on the cashmere industry, but I would doubt that there are many people in the Borders who are not aware that cashmere is manufactured in the Borders and where it can be bought locally. I know the only time I can afford it, however, is when the mills have sales, and I suspect a lot of people in Hawick are the same.
The party promises a non-stop express bus service to Edinburgh. I must say I have not heard this as a vote-winning promise. There can be no argument that the bus service to Edinburgh from Hawick is not quick nor is it comfortable. The comfort problem is down to lack of investment from the Scottish Government in this region’s roads infrastructure.
As far as the common good fund is concerned, anyone who attended the Teviot and Liddesdale Area Committee where this was discussed knows that I support local control over common good funds.
As far as I am aware, all the Hawick councillors do the same.
I believe we need change at Newtown St Boswells. The difference is, I believe, in real party politics – where the backing of a national party can be influenced by local issues, and not the other way.
Roxburgh, Berwickshire and Selkirk Labour Party
Once again we have reached the pre-election silly season (Borders Party looks to polls to put Hawick back on map, Southern, October 6).
I must ask the people of Hawick and the Borders not to be taken in by unachievable promises. How many more politicians will be elected on the promise of upgrades to the A7 and A68, rebuilding the textile trade, giving power back to the people – same old, same old.
The Borders Party has simply gone round the town and asked what concerns the residents, then gone home and produced a manifesto that will fit the bill. Party leader Nicholas Watson is in the same position as David Steel was in during the 1970s – he can promise you anything he likes because he will never be in power to make them happen.
I find it incredible that he would even mention transport. His last manifesto had only one commitment and that was to prevent the reintroduction of the Borders rail link – if that one is anything to go by then he failed miserably.
I feel that the best way forward for Hawick and the Borders is to stick with a winning team and vote SNP at the local elections – incidentally, they out-polled all other parties in the Borders last May. They have a re-industrialisation programme for Scotland based on renewable energy which is underpinned by government and foreign investment.
The reintroduction of the rail link could be just phase one and it is only a short distance to connect Hawick back into mainstream Scotland by rail.
I say to those who would stand as independents and for fringe parties that to make the changes required in the Borders we need power.
(councillor, Jedburgh and District)